Simbioza Lab, the first living lab is Slovenia, is a hub for smart technologies, solutions, devices and products for users aged over 55.
One of the key challenges, identified by ITHACA project, was how to tackle unwillingness of older adults to get involved with new technologies and consequently with e-care and e-health services. Simbioza project very successfully and in innovative ways deals with just that; it is a program based on intergenerational cooperation, solidarity and promotion of lifelong learning. The main purpose is to help the older generation gain a positive experience with a technology, strengthen their confidence and motivate them for further learning and ICT use. Participation also contributes to their social involvement and social activity.
Lab provides the following activities:
- Enables older adults to get in touch with technologies and acquire information on the use of certain ICTs.
- A program in which seniors can be admitted to internship programs of companies and get paid for. Depending on their needs, the companies hire trainees.
- Program for people aged 55+ who are looking for new job opportunities, which gives them insight into the world of start-ups and incorporates various modules.
Main stakeholders/beneficiaries: people 55+.
There are over 20 volunteers/year to lead the workshops, facilitate or help out the team. There are student volunteers, volunteers that are job seekers and want to bring some value to their life and also a rising number of volunteers that are maybe already in pension and want to stay active through facilitating workshops or help out the team.
Project costs in 2013: 125.612 EUR (approximately 50.000 EUR staff costs). Currently project employs 3 people on a daily bases full time and two people part time (approximately 5.500 EUR monthly) and is supported with volunteers. They report being short staffed and would need 2 more employees.
Evidence of success
In 2018, there were 1149 participants with 4.6/5 satisfaction rate. Project received numerous awards (naming few): European Citizen Award; Award for the title “Volunteer of the Year”; Award for Innovations in 2011 in Central Slovenian region (silver award). In 2015 the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia has published data showing that shares of daily computer and Internet users among older people are 3x and 7x higher than in 2009, saying Simbioza contributed notably to this increase
Setting-up the social enterprise can be difficult due to legislation that requires identification of funding in advance. In the Lab, activities have to be adjusted to the time of the day, not exceeding 1.5h. Focus is given to users’ first experience with ICT which determines their further engagement
Potential for learning or transfer
This good practice was widely recognized in EU and national level and serves as an important source of inspiration to policymakers since it importantly contributes to overcoming digital divide. It creates educational opportunities for social inclusion through intergenerational cooperation and promotes lifelong learning. Even if it is a private initiative, it was already widely recognized by policy makers and is supported through awards and funding on EU and national level.
An appropriate infrastructure enabling the implementation of workshops and a basis of volunteers would be needed to successfully transfer this good practice to another region. This would help older adults to gain knowledge on computer and smartphone use. It would also help to gain a positive experience with a technology.
Follow-up, which will enable Simbioza knowledge to be used anytime later, is their manual with detailed description of the entire model of operation that could be shared with foreign partners.